Sunday, January 1, 2012
Quick Take: Lions at Saints
By Pat Yasinskas
Three things to know about next weekend's New Orleans Saints-Detroit Lions wild-card game.
1. Saints need to ride their momentum. New Orleans has not lost since an Oct. 30 game at St. Louis, and the Saints have looked dominant in that time. Their offense has been unstoppable and quarterback Drew Brees has taken his game to another level. Coach Sean Payton played his starters into the fourth quarter against Carolina on Sunday because he wanted to continue to build momentum. Mission accomplished. The Saints are playing as well as anyone in the league. Although they didn’t get a first-round bye, their mindset is that they can beat anyone.
2. Pressure Matthew Stafford. When the two teams met earlier in the season in New Orleans, the Saints won 31-17, but that game did not feature a stellar performance by the defense. Stafford threw for 408 yards, but only one touchdown. The Saints are a bend-but-don’t-break defense, but they’d be pushing their luck if they allowed Stafford to have another 400-yard game. The New Orleans pass rush hasn’t been a big factor this season. But the Saints did get decent pressure on Stafford in the previous meeting. They recorded three sacks in that game and only one of them came from a defensive lineman. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams needs to use the blitz often and try to force Stafford into a mistake or two in what should be a very loud and hostile Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints also should get a lift because middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma sat out Sunday's game to rest his knee, and should return at somewhere close to full strength.
3. Slow down Calvin Johnson. In the previous meeting, the Saints held Johnson to six catches for 69 yards, zero touchdowns and he didn’t have a catch go for more than 22 yards. Although the Saints don’t have a reputation for being a great defense, their secondary does have some big-time talent. Cornerback Jabari Greer and free safety Malcolm Jenkins are two of the league’s most underrated players at their positions. If they get a little help from the pass rush, they can control Johnson again.